Wounded India eye fightback against revived Zimbabwe
It was the first time that the young team was tested on the tour and it faltered on key moments to suffer an unexpected loss.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to get his team over the line in the last over but equally culpable were the batsmen who got out at key moments after getting starts.
Manish Pandey made a fluent 48 but like debutant Mandeep Singh, he would have loved to carry on and take the side through. With Dhoni at the other end and India needing eight off the final over, Axar Patel got out to a loose shot to make life tougher the visitors.
The second string squad was picked to test the team’s bench strength and the youngsters had the ideal platform to perform in the back of a resounding series win in the preceding three ODIs.
However, they wilted under pressure when challenged for the first time in the series. While the batsmen did not show composure required at the highest level, the bowlers, who were given opportunity for the first time on the tour, disappointed. Credit should go to Zimbabwe for their performance after a humiliating loss in ODIs but they were allowed by the erring Indian bowlers to post 170.
All-rounder Rishi Dhawan, representing India for the first time since the Australia tour and making his T20 International debut, put up an ordinary effort leaking 42 runs in four overs.
Pressure was also on pacer Jaydev Unadkat, who was in India colours for the first time in almost three years. Making his debut in the format, Unadkat was not consistent with his line and length and paid the price for it.
It remains to be seen whether he gets another game after ending with figures of 0/43 or Barinder Sran and Dhawal Kulkarni come back to bowl with the new ball, pushing Dhawan out of the eleven too. Leggie Yuzvendra Chahal, who impressed in ODIs, also had an off day and he would be aiming to bounce back strongly.
Ahead of the must-win game, Dhoni warned his men to not repeat the same mistakes in the remaining games.
India did not see the loss coming after a cakewalk in the ODIs, giving Zimbabwe a much needed morale boost to press for another win.
It looked Zimbabwe were staring another batting collapse midway before Elton Chigumbura came up with a whirlwind 56 off 24 balls to set up a competitive total. Zimbabwe batting was an abject failure in ODIs but in the shortest format, they showed they had the resources to put up a fight. The top order got some form going and so did the likes of Malcolm Waller in the middle order.
The bowlers also chipped in with timely blows with the stand-out effort coming form 24-year-old pacer Neville Madziva, who stopped Dhoni and co from getting eight runs in the final over. His last over was praised by Dhoni himself, albeit raising more questions on the famous finishing skills of the Indian captain.
The win was surely a surprise, generating some excitement in the otherwise drab contest.